Thursday 30 October 2014

50 Tapas to Try Before You Die!

I love a list as you'd have probably gathered if you've read this website before. I recently bought a brilliant coffee table book; 1001 Restaurants: You Must Experience Before You Die. I love it, even if I only get chance to visit a very small percentage of the places in the book. You can pick it up and just flick through, choosing somewhere at random. Like any list, there will always be glaring omissions. I looked up a recent Spanish favourite, Aponiente; not in! Unbelievable! Andalucia is fairly unrepresented, with Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque country taking up most room in the Spanish section. It's understandable though, most food writers will only visit these main areas and cross off several places at once.
Anyway back to lists. It's coming around to that time of the year when I compile my favourite meals, dishes of the year etc. It also allows me to blog without frivolously spending money that I've not got on expensive meals out.
 Also, I figured tapas would be a good one to compile as I've never done it before. As soon as you start to list your favourites, you realise the breadth and variety of what's on offer all over Spain and the differences in the regions. It's miles away from those several usual suspects you get in clichéd chain style restaurants that litter our high street here in the UK. For that reason, calamares and patatas bravas have no place on my favourite 50. They're so ubiquitous and tedious I simply never order them in Spain. Anyway, without further ado, my personal favourite 50 tapas dishes.  
In no particular order. Now what did I miss out? 
Gambas. Specifically Carabinero prawns if you can get them. The best that the Mediterranean has to offer.
Morcilla de Burgos. Spanish black pudding. 
Pan con tomate. Deceptively simple, when it's done correctly, it's so good. Everything has to be just right, the crispy toasted bread, quality olive oil and tomato. Available everywhere, this is from Tapas 24 in Barcelona.
Chipirones. Fried baby squid. You find these all over Spain but I've never seen them in the UK for some reason.
Puntallitas. Tiny little crunchy squid.
Gambas al Ajillo. Plump juicy prawns in oil. Dipping your bread in the precious garlic oil is the best bit, everybody knows that.
Cazón en Adobo. Fried dogfish.
Arroz del Día. You usually get a plate of paella, but there are many varieties. This one was a really superb one from Pura Tasca in Seville: Arroz Meloso. Risotto with mushrooms, parmesan and truffles.
Kokotxas. Hake throat. 
Salmorejo. A thicker, creamier version of gazpacho, found all over Andalucia.
Mini Burgers. It might seem a bit silly ordering burgers in Spain. You might need a change of mind when you've eaten one of these from La Brunilda Tapas in Seville.
Carrillada Ibérica. Slow-cooked pig’s cheeks. Below, from La Azotea, again in Seville.
Rabo de Toro. Bull's tail.
Albóndigas. Meatballs. (Pic; Somewhere in Toledo).
Lomo. Cured pork loin.
Bacalao. Salted cod loin.
Tortilla.  I never used to order these as I thought they were dull. But when you get a good one, which is warm and gooey, and so simple, it's a joy. This one was from El Quim de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
Jamón ibérico. Again, I'm embarrassed to say that 20 years ago when I first visited Spain, I just didn't like jamón. It tasted to me as I'd imagined raw bacon to be. Of course I was wrong, it's such a delicacy and you can get the good stuff here now. This was from Levanter in Ramsbottom.
Sobrasada. You can also get this soft spreadable Mallorcan chorizo sausage here too.
Empanadillas. Little pies.
Chocos Fritos.  Tiny fried cuttlefish. 
Boquerones Fritos.  Deep fried whitebait. These are everywhere but I find it hard not to order a portion whenever I'm in Spain.
Pinchitos moruños. Moorish pork kebabs.
Croquetas. As Mrs Bacon will attest, I always want some of these. But they can go either way. About 50% of them are disappointing. When done well though, with enough béchamel, they're irresistible. These are from Tickets in Barcelona.
Aceitunas. Big plump olives are a must with a caña or a vino tinto.
Ensaladilla Rusa. Mrs Bacon usually insists on this creamy Russian salad, I usually eat most of it. This one was from Dani Garcia's tapas bar at Malaga airport.
Vieiras a la plancha. Grilled scallops. A variation of this with Squid ink spaghetti at Vineria San Telmo in Seville.
Chorizo al vino. Again, mopping up the meaty juices with the bread is one of life's joys.
Pimientos de Padrón.
Mejillones Rellenos. Stuffed mussels.
Habas con Jamón. Broad beans with ham. I'm also including the wonderfully rich and hearty bean stew Fabada Asturiana in this. These lovely beans below were from El Faro de Cadiz.
Caracoles. Snails.
Atun. Tuna. The best quality is from the Andalucian coast around Barbate. This Tataki de Atún Rojo from El Campero.
Queso Manchego. We had some gorgeous cheese at Casa Manteca in Cádiz. (See first and last photos). Ortiguillas de Mar Frita. Fried Sea Anemones.
Morro de Ternera. Veal cheek. (From BordaBerri, San Sebastian).
Erizo de Mar.  Baked Creamy Sea Urchin. (From Bar Zeruko San Sebastian).
Navajas.  Razor clams. (From Tickets, Barcelona).
Almejas. Clams. (From Cal Pep, Barcelona).
Tuna Tartare. 
Cerdo Ibérico. Iberico Pork, this one was from Lunya in Liverpool.
Champiñones. Mushrooms. There is a tapas place in Madrid that just specialises in mushrooms and nothing else.
Tortillitas de Camarones. Shrimp fritters, the most famous ones come from Casa Balbino in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Pescaditos Fritos. Mixed fried fish. I could eat these all day and all night and often do.
Queso de cabra frito. You had me at 'fried' and 'cheese'.
Ajo Blanco. We both love this chilled, creamy, almond soup in Andalucia. We first tried it in Malaga.
Lentejas estofadas. Lentil and chorizo stew. A match made in heaven.
Montaditos. I'm adding this as a catch all for everything that is on bread. Those little buns you can shove in your mouth in one go, or at least I do, don't you?
Pulpo a la Gallega. Octopus with paprika. I don't often order this as sometimes it can be rubbery as it's not been tenderized properly, but it really should be on the list. Ok, I ran out of tapas!
*This is not an exhaustive list, I'm not an 'expert' on tapas, I just like to eat. 
There are still many dishes I've not tried yet. ¡Salut!

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Vineria San Telmo, Seville.

Back in 2008 when we last visited Seville we were given a tip about a newish tapas place from our hotelier (and fellow foodie) Francisco manager of the Alminar. It was a revelation then, our first 'modern' tapas bar, uncluttered with clichés and simply wonderful, unpretentious food with a twist. We were in a group of nine people then and we all remember the trip very fondly, especially the food here. Since then we've visited many similar 'gastro' bars all over Spain, so what would it be like returning to Vineria San Telmo? Thankfully it was as good as we remembered it.
 Owner, Argentinan, Juan Tarquini was even there to greet us as we arrived, what a lovely touch. We'd reserved one of the last tables outside, it's so busy this place, especially on Saturday night. It was buzzing, waiters coming and going and the general noise of Spain, outdoors on the street. Nobody whispers here do they?
We had as follows.
King prawn carpaccio with toasted sesame seeds and soy sauce.
Squid ink spaghetti with garlic and grilled scallops. We had this last time, a signature dish perhaps. Lovely plump, juicy scallops on a big pile of jet black pasta. Love it!
Fresh grilled foie-gras with apple compote. We'd only had foie gras twice already that day, we needed to get our maximum fix. This was spot on, almost too rich but not quite, the apple adds some clean neutral fruitiness. A real joy to eat.
Finally, some rich Crêpes filled with Burgos black pudding, served with roasted red pepper sauce finished us off very nicely.

Vineria San Telmo has now become a tapas institution in Seville. We really hit the jackpot in this city. Four great tapas bars out of four. We decided to quit whilst we were ahead, Vineria San Telmo ended a memorable day of eating in some style. We bumped into tapas queen Shawn Hennessey and joined her for a last drink at Las Teresas....

*Paid in full.

Monday 27 October 2014

Sakana, Manchester.

We got a sneaky peak of the new Pan Asian restaurant just off Deansgate, Sakana. As ever with these previews, what follows is not so much of a review. This is still very much training work in progress until they open properly at the end of the month. This is a big operation so naturally they want to get everything spot on for when they do open. It's only fair not to make too many judgements at this early stage. (That's not to say there were too many drastic problems, only minor points).
What caught my eye especially is the high-end first floor restaurant which will open slightly later than downstairs. We got a small taste of the standard ground floor menu and hope to return when upstairs opens.
Tuna Tataki. We had this dish recently in Spain. The tuna is pretty much sashimi raw, they just sear it slightly on the grill.
'Kung Fu Girl' Riesling and Soft Shell Crab Tempura.
Roasted Aubergine and Miso.
 Sushi Selection. One of the chefs is from Umezushi.
Passion Fruit & Sake Panna Cotta.
Ginger brûlée & Cinnamon Shortbread and Chocolate Tart.

Sakana on Urbanspoon